California Gov. Gavin Newsom says he should not have attended a birthday dinner for a dozen people at the posh French Laundry restaurant last week, saying that he should have set a better example for a virus-fatigued state that is seeing steep increases in coronavirus cases.
Newsom, who has pleaded with residents to avoid social gatherings that mix households, apologized in a statement Friday for the transgression.
‘While our family followed the restaurant’s health protocols and took safety precautions, we should have modeled better behavior and not joined the dinner,’ it read.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom (pictured) apologized for attending a birthday dinner with 12 people this month in Napa County
The birthday dinner was held at The French Laundry (pictured), an 3-star Michelin restaurant in Napa County, California
Newsom’s apology comes as California emerged as the second state to surpass one million coronavirus cases. The Golden State had recorded more than 8,500 cases and 27 deaths on Friday, according to John Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.
The San Francisco Chronicle reported Friday of the November 6 dinner to celebrate the 50th birthday of Newsom’s longtime friend and political adviser Jason Kinney.
The outdoor dinner at The French Laundry in Yountville in Napa County brought together 12 people, including the governor and his wife, Jennifer Siebel Newsom.
It was not immediately clear what Newsom ate and how much he spent at The French Laundry, which offers a variety of extremely pricey menus.
The 3-star Michelin restaurant has maintained its $350 per person tasting menu, served in an outdoor dining room during the pandemic.
One day before his birthday party, Kinney declared his plans would not be like Kim Kardashian, who was scrutinized for hosting dozens of her friends on a private island for her 40th celebration.
‘B-day plan: I’ve decided NOT to “surprise my closest inner circle with a trip to private island where we could pretend things were normal just for brief moment in time,” he wrote.
‘I’ll stay home & mainline media coverage of America finding its better angels.’
Kinney; ‘B-day plan: I’ve decided NOT to “surprise my closest inner circle with a trip to private island where we could pretend things were normal just for brief moment in time’
Jennifer Siebel Newsom (left) attended the birthday dinner with her husband, Gavin Newsom, last month
It also added a number of other options, including a $450 per person menu for parties of up to 12 people, that can be served indoors or outside, and another for $850. The restaurant requires all reservations to be paid in advance.
State guidelines limit gatherings, defined as ‘social situations that bring together people from different households at the same time in a single space or place,’ to no more than three households.
It’s unclear if the rule applies to restaurants, however, which follow different guidance.
The 50th birthday dinner was held in celebration of Jason Kinney, a longtime friend and political adviser to Newsom
Representatives for Newsom and Kinney did not specify how many households attended the dinner party, but did not deny that it was more than three.
Nathan Click, a spokesman for the Democratic governor, told San Francisco Chronicle that the governor and Siebel Newsom ‘followed public health guidelines and the restaurant’s health protocols — all in line with the state’s rules for restaurant operation.
‘He and the first partner paid for their own meals.’
Click added that California guidelines required restaurants to ‘limit the number of patrons at a single table to a household unit or patrons who have asked to be seated together.’
A Napa County public information officer reiterated the sentiment to San Francisco Chronicle.
‘It’s a balanced right, between public health and not devastating the economy,’ said Jane Upton.
Molly Weedn, a representative for Kinney, said all party guests followed safety protocols and declined to comment on why the celebration brought together more than three households.
‘This was a small, intimate, 12-person dinner held outdoors with family and a few close friends to celebrate a 50th birthday,’ Weedn said in a statement to the Chronicle.
Newsom’s apology was issued after the publication published the story online.
The California Republican Party criticized the governor by saying Newsom ‘seems to be talking out of both sides of his mouth.’
California GOP: ‘Gavin Newsom seems to be talking out of both sides of his mouth’
California became the second state to surpass one million coronavirus cases this week, following the grim precedence set by Texas
As recently as Monday, Newsom singled out private gatherings as a factor in the increase of new coronavirus numbers, which have amassed a total of 1,004,116 cases and 18,135 deaths.
‘It’s for obvious reasons. People are letting their guard down,’ Newsom said at a news conference, per San Francisco Chronicle.
‘They’re taking their masks off. They’re starting to get together outside of their household cohorts. They’re starting to see businesses reopen and we’re starting, again, to see more people mixing. As it gets colder, we’ll see more still.’
John Swartzberg, an infectious disease expert and a clinical professor emeritus at UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health, said that Newsom made a bad judgement call.
‘The idea that it’s OK to do that because it’s at a restaurant is upside down. Whether or not it abides the letter of the guidance, I think it’s not a good idea,’ he told San Francisco Chronicle.
‘Is this a major breach by Newsom? No. But it’s not the best judgment. He has to be the grownup in the room. And he has to be the one that people model.
‘That’s what comes with the responsibility of being a leader.’